Siberia cursed by ancient mummy? Of course not

According to a recent article provided by the Daily Mail, the mummified remains of a Siberian princess are to blame for earthquakes and flooding in the region. Supposedly, it’s some kind of curse. Why does the Mail focus first on this part? Because it’s the Mail.

An exhumed 2,500 year old mummified Siberian princess is set to be reburied because native groups in the Altai Mountains claim her posthumous anger is causing floods and earthquakes.

The tattooed corpse of the 25-year-old woman was preserved in permafrost until she was dug up more than two decades ago. It was this act, it is claimed, that has caused her anger.

Now the Council of Elders in Altai – representing native Siberians in the region – have passed a vote to rebury her remains, a decision apparently accepted by local governor Alexander Berdnikov.

And what happens when the body is returned to “rest” but earthquakes and floods still ravage the area? Will they claim it’s her lingering resentment or search the area for some other scapegoat?

The article goes on to describe where it was found and what else was buried along with it. Then,

Spokeswoman for the regional government Oksana Yeremeeva said: ‘The decision of Council of Elders is very respectable, but we cannot implement it immediately.’

Currently the mummy was seen as a museum possession and a new law would be needed to give the go-ahead to a reburial.

She said: ‘The mummy, though it can sound quite rude, is still a museum exhibit, that is we cannot just bury it, no-one has done such things before.’

The move is likely to require validation by the Russian Ministry of Culture in Moscow.

I don’t know if it comes down to journalistic “laziness” or harsh deadlines that leave writers with little time to dig deeper into topics. Or are they just being honest when it comes to giving people what they apparently want? I know the headline did much of the work to get me interested in clicking. Going with a flamboyantly stupid headline may gain them click points on their stat meters but how many people will stop at, “Ha, ha, silly people think curses are real” and how many will notice the actual story worth pursuing that gets ignored here?

The issue worth discussing is the one about the rights of locals to maintain connection to their history versus the stance of museums and researchers intent on better understanding that history. This kind of clash is not uncommon.

Ideally, both groups will be able to work together to figure out the best way to deal with the historic pieces. I did some “digging” for other news that would fit this theme. The Canadian Museum for Human Rights will officially open late September, 2014, in Winnipeg, Manitoba. In an article from last August, the Winnipeg Sun had a rundown of artifacts that had been found while digging out the space for the museum. 400,000 artifacts of various types.

Local aboriginal elders were consulted about the oral history of the site and how to respect the land being excavated. On the advice of those elders, a medicine bag was buried with each of the 500 pilings constructed to support the structure.

“Bringing archaeology and oral history together will give us all a better understanding of Manitoba’s ancient past,” said Mireille Lamontagne, the museum’s manager of education programs. “The museum will undertake key oral histories related to the archaeology project that will be kept as part of the museum’s corporate family.”

The bulk of the items found a home with the Provincial Historic Resources Branch, according to the article.

update Aug 28/14: If you’ll be in the Winnipeg area Sept 19-21st Rightsfest is sounding pretty darn fun.

Many of the performances will have a human rights theme, including a collaboration between the Sarah Sommer Chai Folk Ensemble, an Israeli folk dance ensemble, and the Rusalka Ukrainian Dance Ensemble.

Other performers will include 100 Decibels, a deaf mime troupe, and Shannon Bear, a traditional First Nations dancer and human-rights activist.

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